I got to know Brent and Carrie Pollard a little better when they were Cultivating Master Farmer participants a couple years ago. Carrie grew up on a farm near Little York, and today they milk 100 cows with Brent's parents, Warren and Gail. They also raise corn, beans, alfalfa and assorted forages on 800 acres. Translated, "assorted forages" means a lot when you're talking 100 head of dairy cows.
Off the farm and in between milkings, Carrie works for Bethany Swine, where she helps about 50 different hog producers with nutrient management planning, production analysis, bloodtesting, disease elimination and employee training. So it's not all dairy all the time for them. But almost.
Like a lot of dairy farmers, you get the sense that Brent and Carrie really love those cows. They even make the front of the family Christmas card!
"If we take care of the cows, the cows will take care of us," Brent says. Carrie adds, "Everything that we do here on the dairy farm, we do for our cows because they are the bread winners for us. It can be both rewarding and frustrating as you look towards improvements that you have made that worked, those that yet need to be done or the never-ending 'to do' list, and those that didn’t work like we thought they should."
And if a hundred cows sounds like a lot – and it does to a lot of consumer – Brent offers a little perspective.
"We use only family labor. There are no other siblings in my dad’s or my generation farming with us. Thinking how much bigger we’d have to be in order to provide a living wage for more family members makes my head spin.
"The family farm has changed."
Indeed. Even when it's all family – and especially when there are lots of family – it takes both volume and capacity to make a real living for everyone.
30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family
Day 3: The Thomases
Day 4: The Stewarts
Day 5: The Weavers
Day 6: The Hawkinsons
Day 7: The Kortes
Day 8: The Walters
Day 9: The Schillings
Day 10: The Martins
Day 11: The Pratts
Day 12: The Bowmans